Friday, October 12, 2018

Dear Abby - Videos That Abby Likes: A Cute Dachshund Gets His Way!

Dear Friends,

I have a cute short video for you today.  It features a black and tan dachshund who is super cute.  He is so cute, in fact, that he has learned to get his way in all situations.   Sometimes he wants extra kibble, or he wants his Dad to fetch a toy for him, or he wants the comfy chair to himself.   Guess what?  He gets his way every time just because he has mastered The Look.

If you have a dog or cat, does he or she have The Look that helps grant wishes?   Momma says that I do -- I will even go belly up before giving The Look.   (This is a trade secret that I probably should not be sharing here!)

Here is the video:

I'd love to hear from you in the comments, below.


Abby xoxoxo

Book Review and Giveaway - Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners by Gretchen Anthony

Book Synopsis

Dearest loved ones, far and near—evergreen tidings from the Baumgartners!

Violet Baumgartner has opened her annual holiday letter the same way for the past three decades. And this year she’s going to throw her husband, Ed, a truly perfect retirement party, one worthy of memorializing in her upcoming letter. But the event becomes a disaster when, in front of two hundred guests, Violet learns her daughter Cerise has been keeping a shocking secret from her, shattering Violet’s carefully constructed world.

In an epic battle of wills, Violet goes to increasing lengths to wrest back control of her family, infuriating Cerise and snaring their family and friends in a very un-Midwestern, un-Baumgartner gyre of dramatics. And there will be no explaining away the consequences in this year’s Baumgartner holiday letter…

Full of humor, emotion and surprises at every turn, Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners brings to life a remarkable cast of quirky, deeply human characters who must learn to adapt to the unconventional, or else risk losing one another. This is the story of a family falling to pieces—and the unexpected way they put it all back together.


Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

My Review
Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners tells the story of the Baumgartner family through a pivotal year ending, of course, at Christmas time.  There is the formidable matriarch, Violet, her long suffering husband Ed, their daughter Cerise, and Cerise's partner Barb.  But somehow there is much more, and it all adds up to an unusually fun holiday read!

I am in awe of the feat that Gretchen Anthony has pulled off with this novel.   There is a large cast of characters and there are numerous flashbacks to Christmas letters and family moments from previous years.  This is all handled so deftly.  I especially loved how well developed and delineated the characters were in this novel.

I also loved the unique blend of humor and heart in this book.  The humor is sly and sometimes laugh out loud funny.  One of my favorite lines from an earlier Christmas letter by Violet:  "I cannot believe that it was just five short years ago she left home with nothing but a fresh high school diploma, a laptop and a new Laura Ashley comforter (no one should leave for college without good bedding)" (p. 32).  There is a dinner party in this novel that is one of the funniest scenes I can recall reading in a book.  

And the characters!  Violet is imposing and controling -- and yet I came to really like her by the end of the novel.  Her husband Ed is salt of the earth, such a good and decent man.  When their daughter Cerise tells them she and Barb are expecting, Violet is beside herself trying to find the paternity of the baby.  That sets a chain of events into motion that continues through the novel.  I won't say more because I don't want to spoil any of the plot twists.  There was one little surprise after another.

Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners is such a fun holiday read!   I highly recommend it -- you're in for a treat.

Author Bio
Gretchen Anthony is a Minnesota-based writer and humorist whose work has been featured on, and She’s also spent decades as a ghostwriter and has written for some of the best personal brands in the United States, from CEOs to doctors and start-up superstars to BBQ pros. Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners is her first novel.

Connect with Gretchen

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

One lucky winner will receive a print copy of Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners.  (U.S. only).  Enter at the Rafflecopter link below.  Winner will be contacted after October 20, and will need to respond within 48 hours or a new name will be drawn.   Good luck to all!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Dear Abby - Videos That Abby Likes: Dachshunds Playing in Leaves

Dear Friends,

Is it cool and Fall-like where you are?  It is still very hot where I am, with temperatures up to 90 degrees in the afternoon, but I am thinking about Fall and looking forward to cooler weather for good long walks ahead.

I spent some time looking at dachshunds playing in leaves on Youtube.  I found a few videos to share with you!

Meatball the dachshund helps rake leaves in this video called Leaf It To Meatball.

A cute dachshund named Sasha plays in a big pile of yellow leaves.  I love the Fall colors in this video!

Short but sweet video with a 9 month old puppy named Baxter who really loves the leaves:

I hope you are having a great Fall and hope you enjoyed these videos.  Have a wonderful weekend!


Abby xoxoxo

Book Review - Summer Plans and Other Disasters, by Karin Beery

Book Synopsis
Elementary school music teacher Callie Stevens thinks she’s finally figured out God’s plan for her life—she even made a list to keep her on track.
Moving in with her brother and reconnecting with her ex-boyfriend are at the top of the list. What’s not on the list is running into her childhood crush, Ryan. God wanted her to connect with Kyle, right?
Trying to figure out God’s plan is hard enough. But a dating-averse older brother, the young blonde who adores him, a pregnant best friend, and Callie’s continual mishaps make her wonder whether her best laid plans were truly God-inspired. 
Now available from Elk Lake Publishing!

My Review
Summer Plans and Other Disasters tells the story of Callie, who moves home for the summer to live with her brother and pursue her ex-boyfriend Kyle.  She has her summer neatly planned out.  But things happen to make her re-think her plans, including meeting her long ago crush, Ryan, again.

This is such a fun, sweet read!   Callie is a very likeable and real character.  She is a music teacher and a bit of a klutz.  Her attempts to help her brother Jack as he works to maintain the lighthouse where they live and the surrounding park almost always end in disaster.

I loved the other characters too -- Callie's brother Jack, his best friend Ryan, Stacey (who has a crush on Jack), and Callie's friend Mae.

The atmosphere of the book was especially nice.  I felt like I spent a few hours enjoying life in a lighthouse in small town Michigan.

I also really liked the Christian message of this novel.  Callie is a planner but she learns to let go and trust God.  The author, Karin Beery, handled the message deftly and with a light touch.  The strength of the characters and the engaging plot were always at the heart of this novel.

This story is told from several characters' perspectives, and that took a few chapters to get used to.   But I soon was interested in what would happen next and I enjoyed getting to know the different characters via alternating perspectives.

I recommend Summer Plans and Other Disasters for fans of Christian fiction, women's fiction, and contemporary romance.  It would make a fun weekend read or vacation book.

Author Bio
Karin wrote her first novel in 2007 to cope with her husband’s cancer diagnosis (no worries – he’s cancer free now!). With the support and encouragement of her family, she submitted that manuscript. That particular manuscript has not been published yet, but Summer Plans and Other Disasters, her first published book, releases in September 2018.
Karin writes contemporary and speculative fiction stories with a healthy dose of romance, but she’s also expanded her repertoire: she writes feature stories for the local paper, copy material for businesses, and blog posts for herself and others. She even edits (offering copy editing, fiction editing, and critiques through Write Now Editing Services) and teaches (she’s the Substantive Fiction Editing instructor for the PEN Institute and can be found around the country teaching writing and editing courses at conferences and at her local college).

When Karin’s not reading, writing, or editing, she enjoys cooking and baking. She plays the piano and sings (the key of E, please). She kayaks with her husband in the summer, watches football in the fall (Go Blue!), and enjoys Christmas lights all winter long. Shy but extroverted, Karin adores her nieces and nephew and loves spending time with her family.  Learn more about Karin at:

You can also follow her on:

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Book Review and Giveaway - Glitter Bomb (A Scrapbooking Mystery) by Laura Childs with Terrie Farley Moran

Book Synopsis
An exploding Mardi Gras float has got to be the strangest murder weapon scrappy sleuth Carmela Bertrand has ever encountered in this latest Scrapbooking Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author.

It’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans and scrapbook shop owner Carmela Bertrand is excited to be attending the Pluvius Parade along with her best friend Ava. Carmela’s ex-husband Shamus rides by the duo on his float at the head of the parade, when suddenly the revelry turns to disaster. Shamus’ float crashes and explodes, and although Shamus escapes unhurt, a member of his krewe is killed.

Carmela and Ava plunge into an investigation of the krewe-member’s death, but as they dig deeper it starts to look less like an accident and more like a murder….and Shamus seems less like a victim, and more like a suspect.

My Review
Carmela Bertrand, who owns a scrapbooking shop in New Orleans, is drawn into a mystery when she sees a float explode at a Mardi Gras parade.  A friend of her ex-husband, Shamus, is killed in the explosion, and Shamus asks her to help solve the mystery.

What rollicking fun Glitter Bomb is -- much like Mardi Gras itself!   I love New Orleans and the authors got the local detail absolutely perfect.   Reading this novel was like visiting the city at the height of Mardi Gras.

I have read several of the books in this series, but not all, and this book works well as a standalone.

Carmela is a fun character.  I enjoy reading about her scrapbooking shop and her amateur detective work.   The detective work is especially interesting since her boyfriend, Edgar Babcock, is a police detective.  I like their relationship and enjoyed their scenes in this book.  Carmela also has a wacky best friend, Ava, and two lovable dogs.

This mystery was complex because there were so many characters and suspects.  (I would have liked a cast of characters list to keep them all straight!)  There were some clues about the murderer and I guessed before the denouement.  Without giving spoilers I will add that the scene where the murderer is caught is my favorite in the book -- very atmospheric and suspenseful!

There were also sections at the back of the book with scrapbooking tips and New Orleans recipes.

I recommend Glitter Bomb to fans of cozy mysteries, and especially to anyone who loves New Orleans.  You are in for a fun read!

Author Bios
Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. In her previous life she was CEO/Creative Director of her own marketing firm and authored several screenplays. She is married to a professor of Chinese art history, loves to travel, rides horses, enjoys fundraising for various non-profits, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.
Laura specializes in cozy mysteries that have the pace of a thriller (a thrillzy!) Her three series are:

The Tea Shop Mysteries – set in the historic district of Charleston and featuring Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop. Theodosia is a savvy entrepreneur, and pet mom to service dog Earl Grey. She’s also an intelligent, focused amateur sleuth who doesn’t rely on coincidences or inept police work to solve crimes. This charming series is highly atmospheric and rife with the history and mystery that is Charleston.

The Scrapbooking Mysteries – a slightly edgier series that take place in New Orleans. The main character, Carmela, owns Memory Mine scrapbooking shop in the French Quarter and is forever getting into trouble with her friend, Ava, who owns the Juju Voodoo shop. New Orleans’ spooky above-ground cemeteries, jazz clubs, bayous, and Mardi Gras madness make their presence known here!

The Cackleberry Club Mysteries – set in Kindred, a fictional town in the Midwest. In a rehabbed Spur station, Suzanne, Toni, and Petra, three semi-desperate, forty-plus women have launched the Cackleberry Club. Eggs are the morning specialty here and this cozy cafe even offers a book nook and yarn shop. Business is good but murder could lead to the cafe’s undoing! This series offers recipes, knitting, cake decorating, and a dash of spirituality.

Laura’s Links:
Webpage –
Facebook –

Short-listed twice for The Best American Mystery Stories, Terrie Farley Moran is delighted to introduce mystery fans to the Read ’Em and Eat cafĂ© and bookstore, which debuted with Well Read, Then Dead. followed by Caught Read-Handed and Read to Death released in July of this year.  The only thing Terrie enjoys more than wrangling mystery plots into submission is playing games and reading stories with any or all of her grandchildren.

Terrie’s Links:

Purchase Links:

Amazon    B&N    Google Books    IndieBound   Kobo  BookBub 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and Great Escapes Book Tour.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Book Review - Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

Book Synopsis
In a most improbable friendship, she found love. In a world where women were silenced, she found her voice. 

From New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan comes an exquisite novel of Joy Davidman, the woman C. S. Lewis called “my whole world.” When poet and writer Joy Davidman began writing letters to C. S. Lewis—known as Jack—she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn’t holding together her crumbling marriage. Everything about New Yorker Joy seemed ill-matched for an Oxford don and the beloved writer of Narnia, yet their minds bonded over their letters. Embarking on the adventure of her life, Joy traveled from America to England and back again, facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, and against all odds, finding a love that even the threat of death couldn’t destroy.

In this masterful exploration of one of the greatest love stories of modern times, we meet a brilliant writer, a fiercely independent mother, and a passionate woman who changed the life of this respected author and inspired books that still enchant us and change us. Joy lived at a time when women weren’t meant to have a voice—and yet her love for Jack gave them both voices they didn’t know they had.

At once a fascinating historical novel and a glimpse into a writer’s life, Becoming Mrs. Lewis is above all a love story—a love of literature and ideas and a love between a husband and wife that, in the end, was not impossible at all.

Check out this audio clip of chapters 1 & 2: CLICK HERE



Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble


My Review

Joy Davidman was an unhappily married writer living in Ossining, New York in 1946.  She was a new Christian, after years as an atheist and a communist.  Her interest in Christianity prompted her to write author C.S. Lewis (known as Jack to his friends).  A correspondence began, and a friendship, with Joy traveling to England to research and work - and to meet Jack finally.  Becoming Mrs. Lewis tells their improbable and tremendously moving love story.  


I was eager to read Becoming Mrs. Lewis as soon as I heard of it.  I grew up with the Narnia books and read some of C.S. Lewis's Christian nonfiction and apologetics as a high school student;  we studied them at the Christian school I attended.  He is a longtime favorite author of mine, and I was familiar with his love story with Joy through the movie and play Shadowlands.


The best word I can find to describe this novel is extraordinary.  It is not just a historical novel, although the period details are beautifully realized.  It is not just a Christian novel, although the ongoing theological discussions between Joy and Jack (on paper and in person) are fascinating.  It is not just a love story, although of course it is that, and more.


The storytelling is beautiful.  Patti Callahan has a gift for finding beauty in descriptions of simple, everyday details of life.  For instance, Joy makes cocoa in her kitchen in New York:


"I watched as the milk came to a slow boil in the pot;  then I poured the chocolate flakes into the white froth, transfixed.  Outside, the first snowflake fluttered into view, then melted as it settled onto the windowpane;  it was a natural wonder and it lifted my heart.  The bird feeder hung from a low branch, and a cardinal passed there and turned its black eye on me.  Every simple thing radiated for a brief moment with extraordinary beauty, a daily grace" (p. 18).


Later Joy tells a friend, "Look at this world.  ... It's such a wonder, profoundly  beautiful.  I want to live in it that way -- not as if life is one big chore" (p. 35).


This sense of wonder and attention to life is one of the many bonds between Joy and Jack as they get to know each other.  They are connected, too, through their love of God, the passion for writing, their love of books and reading.


I had not read any of Joy's writing before this book and loved the glimpses into her writing process and creative spark.  She began writing love sonnets on an ongoing basis to express her feelings for Jack that she did not feel she could share with him verbally.  The little glimpses they provide are beautiful.


I also loved the details of Jack's life at his home, The Kilns in Oxford, and the remarkable portrayal of his creative inspiration and brilliant mind.  There are even brief glimpses of Jack at the Eagle and Child and details about his friendship with the Inklings who met there, including J.R.R. Tolkien.  Jack tells Joy about his friendship with Tolles (Tolkien):  "We don't like politics.  Neither of us has bothered to learn to drive a car.  Dante.  Theology." (p. 190).


At the heart of Becoming Mrs. Lewis, there is, of course, the story of Joy and Jack.  Although I knew the basics of their love story, nothing prepared me for how deeply moving this novel truly is.  When I finished reading I had to just put the book down and think about it for a while.  I have been thinking about it since.


I cannot recommend Becoming Mrs. Lewis highly enough for anyone interested in the lives of C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman, for anyone interested in Christian theology, anyone who loves beautifully rendered historical fiction.   This is such a lovely read!

Author Bio 

Patti Callahan (who also writes as Patti Callahan Henry) is a New York Times bestselling author. Patti was a finalist in the Townsend Prize for Fiction, has been an Indie Next Pick, twice an OKRA pick, and a multiple nominee for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Novel of the Year. Her work has also been included in short story collections, anthologies, magazines and blogs. Patti attended Auburn University for her undergraduate work, and Georgia State University for her graduate degree. Once a Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist, she now writes full time. The mother of three children, she lives in both Mountain Brook, Alabama and Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband.

Connect with Patti

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram 


I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours.